Tuesday, November 22, 2011


The Muppets comes out this week, and it looks and feels very much like the Muppets that I grew up with; fresh, fun and humorous. I'm going to see it with my daughter around the holiday and it should be pretty entertaining. I'm glad in that respect, but it bothers me that Jim Henson's name is not in bold, above the title. It may be called Disney's The Muppets, but even though they own the property, it's still not Disney to me.
Jim Henson was the heart and soul of The Muppets.
Many moons ago when I was just about 11 or twelve, I was a big Muppet Fan and very much into puppets for that reason. Henson was involved with creating delightfully bizarre sketches for The Ed Sullivan Show, For Commercials, for Sesame Street and was creating hour long specials for CBS and for syndication. Each of these projects were a whole lot of fun and I got caught up into it. In fact, I was so bitten by it that I decided that when I grew up, I wanted to work for Jim Henson!
My father saw that interest and nurtured it by enrolling me in some puppetry classes at The Museum Of New York with a professional puppeteer named Rod Young. For a number of weeks, we built puppets, wrote a show, recorded it and then performed it on a beautiful stage at the Museum. I took the experience and ran with it by performing my own little shows on a giant stage that my father had built me. I even entered a puppetry competition and won three 2nd place prizes. Professional puppeteers attended this and made a point to tell my father that I was a natural for the medium.
For a time there, I would write to Jim Henson in NYC, and he would actually answer these little letters personally. These letters would be typed up on Henson Associates stationery and signed by Mr. Henson in green pen. To say I was thrilled when I received these would be a major understatement. I even got the number to Jim Hensons' workshop on East 67th Street in NYC, and called him a few times on the weekends...he always picked up the phone. I knew what I wanted to say to him, but sometimes the words were slow to come out. Somehow I managed to stumble through a question or two...and I'm sure it sounded like some stuttering dumbbell kid on the other side of the phone, but he never rushed me off. Sometimes, I wondered if it was really Mr Henson answering that phone on a Saturday morning. Years later, I did find out that he did go into the workshop on Saturdays, often always by himself.
The letters that I received from Jim Henson weren't very long; basically simple answers to simple questions but I cherished having them. Unfortunately somehow over time, due to my carelessness or whatever, they got misplaced and lost.
By the time, I had hit thirteen years old, the animation bug got me and I redirected myself toward a career in animated cartoons. My father had a problem with my new direction because he had felt that I was giving up something where I had a unique ability. He eventually saw why I wanted to go into animation and supported my efforts. While I gave up puppets as a career choice, I never lost my love for them. I've remained a Jim Henson fan ever since. Recently, I went to see The Jim Henson Exhibit at the Museum Of The Moving Image in Astoria, Queens (runs through January 2012). The show features Jim's original character sketches as well as original muppets from some of the early commercials and specials. It was a thrilling experience for me. I think I've been bitten by the Muppet bug yet again.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Ant and The Aardvark Part One

One of my favorite cartoons growing up was The Ant & The Aardvark, which was a part of the Depatie Freleng Pink Panther show that ran on NBC for something like a gazillion seasons. Actually the show started with a half hour in the late 60's, expanding to an hour and then an hour and a half in the early 70's!
The cartoons felt hipper than the older Looney Tunes stuff, even though the Depatie Freleng staff basically reused a whole lot of old Warner Bros gags. The thing about these cartoons though was the unique voice characterizations of John Byner doing impressions of Dean Martin (The Ant) and Jackie Mason (The Aardvark) in the guise of two odd ball cartoon stars. What really made these cartoons special was the great line reads by Byner. They're simply not your standard cartoony cartoon voices. It's really hard to believe that Byner did all these characters because you don't hear his vocal voice print (Even with some of the classic voice artists like Paul Frees, Mel Blanc and Daws Butler, you could tell who was doing those voices). To top off the uniqueness of these cartoons, the jazzy music by Doug Goodwin creates what I call a drunken type of music that really works. Everything adds to the fun! In Technology Phooey (The cel above is from that very cartoon) the Aardvark has to deal with the Ant and a computer (also voiced by Byner doing a pseudo Paul Lynde impression) who gives him very bad advice. It's one of my favorite Ant & The Aaardvark cartoons!  Even though it seemed like they produced a lot of these shorts, in reality only 17 were made between 1969 and 1971. Art Leonardi, who was a Warners guy back in the late years of that studio, moved to DFE and was a key guy there doing lots of different things. I later worked with him on Tiny Toon Adventures in the late 80's. He's credited as animator on this particular short and did all 17 of the cut out titles.  Take a look at the short below...
Somewhere over the last twenty years, I started collecting animation art from Depatie Freleng's early years and stumbled across a bunch of original cels from The Original Ant & Aardvark series (many from this short). Because I had never seen too many originals ever offered through the years, I decided to buy whatever I could. Fast forward to now and a lot of these cels are just sitting in a closet where they will probably never be displayed the way they should. So I decided to let a few go on ebay so that other people might enjoy them. I will post some of my other original Ant & The Aardvark art over the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


I have a few of these Roy Williams drawings, so I'm letting this one go to auction on ebay. I consider myself a pretty fast artist, but Roy Williams was lighting quick. He probably effortlessly knocked this one out in under five seconds. It's not the best Mickey I've ever seen, as a matter of fact it's not even on model, but the drawing has charm....and it's probably the best drawing that you're going to get in under five seconds.
Waiting to get your own Roy Williams drawing was probably the shortest line ever at Disneyland just because Williams was so lightning quick!
Between drawing assignments at the Disney studio in the late 50's and early 60's, Walt would send some of his artists down to Disneyland to draw for the crowds. Sometimes this would be at the Art Corner in Tomorrowland or you could find them somewhere on Main Street, possibly somewhere near the castle. I know you could occassionally find Disney vet Bob Youngquist also drawing for the crowds.
The only thing I'm not sure of is if they ever charged for the drawings!
Regardless, it sure sounds like it was a great time to go to Disneyland.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Drawings Rescued From The Shredder....

Rescued From The Shredder: Blissful Guy

Rescued' Dog
I have a whole lot of sketches just lying around and every so often I go through them and start discarding; Frankly, If I didn't, my house would look like a trash heap and my wife would throw me out...or so I'm told. In this joyless process, I pull up the old trash can and begin to thumb through stacks of drawings, most of which are ok sketches but they're not spectacular enough to make me want to keep them. I'd say a good 99% find their way to the Shredder but every once in a while, I'll find a drawing that somehow stands out of the bunch. I posted a few examples above that were done in Ebony pencil. I don't think this was intentional, but the guy looks a little like Disney Animator Frank Thomas while the dog has a Hanna Barbera influence to him.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Visit to Tiny Toons Two-Tone Town

Tiny Toon Adventures was a very interesting experience. The memories that I have from it are all good. As a matter of fact, working on that show was a whole lot of fun. There was a carefree quality for me working on these cartoons and I remember laughing a lot. Maybe that's why in 'Fields Of Honey' I explode in a burst of laughter (more on that in another post). I had just joined the studio from Don Bluth's Burbank facility. I was working as an animation trainee and making a very low salary. Don't get me wrong; I learned many things there at the Bluth House, but it got to the point where I couldn't afford to work there anymore. Ken Boyer, who was one of the designers of the Tiny Toon Characters and a director for the show, offered me over double what I made at Bluth to join Warners as a layout artist! I loved animating for Don but I couldn't turn down the offer. Joining Warner Bros. Animation was a fantastic opportunity! Here I was working side by side with legends of animation and some of the most talented animation artists in the animation business! Working on Ken's crew offered me the ability to grow as an artist. Because we both liked the same styles of animation and design, it gave me the opportunity to stretch in the direction that I really wanted. In a short time, I was promoted to storyboarding. Storyboarding is as close to Directing a cartoon as you can get. Here you can really influence how the thing plays from beginning to end and that was very appealing to me.
Although I storyboarded a handful of Tiny Toon cartoons before this, Twotone Town was different for a few reasons. Even though it features the Tiny Toon characters, it feels like a different show. It was a half hour episode (most half hours were made up of three cartoon segments) and it is one of the few that features storyboard credits on the title cards (the episode was broken up into four blocks for the storyboard artists).
It's also one of the best animated episodes of that series...the twotone characters look great in the finale.
It's also credited as the inspiration for the next series that Warners would tackle called Animaniacs.
Although I was never credited for character models for the studio, I did influence a few through the boards. Near the end of this episode in Part Two, the Buddy Hackett caricature is from the only model sheet that I ever did at the studio.
(For your information, I worked on the last section to the finale!)

Monday, October 10, 2011

SHHHHHHHHHHH! A Walter Lantz Cartoon!

One of my all time favorite Lantz Cartoons Directed By The Great Tex Avery. Some people love it, some people don't get it. I think it's terrific because of it's simple concept. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Pen Thumbnail sketches #1

Someone emailed me the other day about my drawings and somehow they got the impression that I never do dirt ruff sketches. After looking at some of my posts over the last couple of years I can see how you might get that impression. Truth is, I will do a lot of exploration with thumbnails to help me get where I'm going. If I can't get with what I'm after with a certain pencil, I'll switch off to some other pencil, marker or even a plain ol bic ball point pen, which is what you see here. Some of these sketches were done looser than normal for me and took no longer than 30 seconds to make. Because you're not investing a ton of time into the sketch, it's easy to discard and move on to the next. Like most people, there are times that I'll hit a brick wall. In those moments, it's best to walk away for a couple of minutes and clear your head. Get some reference, live action video, photos or look at other drawings that are similar. Go back to the board and use the reference to help you get the result you need. Worst case scenario, get another artists opinion and see if they can help solve the problem. Sometimes the solution is very simple and you were complicating it.
It's not a bad idea to look at the drawings you had previously done before becoming frustrated. Sometimes there's a gem in there and you glossed over it because you were caught up in the heat of the moment. BTW, the drawing on the bottom, is also a thumbnail drawn in a bic pen, but sketched a little slower.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Bear Heads.....

Here's some random doodles of a bear character I had rolling around in my head. Lately, when I draw I prefer to use Polychromos because it's an erasable pencil and it has a nice flow. Years back when I was working on Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures For Bakshi & John K. and Beany & Cecil for John Kricfalusi, I was used to drawing in Col-erase, however John quickly got me out of that and told me to draw with Prismacolors for my character layouts. Prismacolor Pencils have a nice flow and you can get a drawing down pretty loose and quick, but the main problem is that they're nearly impossible to erase with! In order to correct the drawing, you had to use white out. I got used to drawing with those pencils and still like to sketch with them as seen here with the bear heads. My approach with Prismacolor is simple; I'll do a very light underdrawing first, then go over it with bolder strokes.
Most of the time though, I'm using Polychromos or Ebony pencils for my sketching, but will still switch back to Prismacolor for fun or col-erase for animation work.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Childhood Inspirations: WONDERAMA With Bob McAllister

Once apon a time, there was a show that was broadcast on Metromedia stations across the country called Wonderama, and although there were various hosts through the years, probably the most popular host was the last one, a man named Bob McAllister. McAllister, like many other hosts of childrens shows in the nation, started off in local television with his own childrens show in Norfork, Virginia and as his popularity grew, was hired by a TV station in Baltimore to host The Bob McAllister Show. The success of that show, which showcased Bob's gift for magic, ventriloquism and comedy, led to an offer from WNEW TV in New York to be the New Host Of Wonderama, replacing departing host Sonny Fox. Wonderama started in 1955, with hosts changing every couple of years. Bob's tenure was the longest, from 1967 to 1977 and for good reason, he was very popular with kids. Wonderama was a three hour show that ran on Sunday mornings from 8 to 11 am and featured games, prizes, special guests, magic, humor and Warner Bros. Cartoons! Because of the popularity of the show, they were able to get some big name guests such as Jerry Lewis, Abba, The Jackson Five and Muhammad Ali to name a few. They also had guests from the world of animation and puppetry, like Mel Blanc, Jim Henson and Bob Clampett!
But make no mistake, It was McAllister's show and he was the draw. Who can forget The Fingleheimer Stomp, Have You Heard Any Good News Today?, Exercise!, or Ecology? All these songs were co written and performed by McAllister on the show. McAllister was the kids celebrity.
Wonderama was cherished by most young New Yorkers as there was a three year wait to get on the show. As a kid, I must have mailed hundreds of letters requesting tickets.  Sure enough, I was thrilled to receive tickets a few years later...and continued to get them into my teens! I appeared on the show three times but was never picked to participate in the games. Drats as Charlie Brown might say, however it was a kick just being there taking it all in.  Songs that he had performed on the show were compiled as a record album called Wonderama's Bob McAllister: Kids Are People Too!
Bob made appearances at May's Department Stores around the NY area promoting the album. I was one of those kids lining up outside the Mays' store in Lake Success, NY one Sunny Saturday morning in the early 70's, eagerly waiting for the store to open up at 10am. When the doors were unlocked, kids literally stampeded through the store to get where McAllister was sitting, with endless stacks of these records. All I remember was waiting on a long line to say hello to Mr. Wonderama himself and say how much I liked the show. Of course, that never really transpired as the conversation went something like this...McAllister: "What's your name?" and  I replied, 'Brian'. McAllister then ripped off the cellophane and signed the album in magic marker. It's an image that has stayed with me all these years.
Wonderama ended on Christmas Day 1977, and McAllister went on to host an ABC show called, Kids Are People Too! Because of creative differences with ABC, he was replaced by a younger host named, Michael Young the following year.
Bob went on to perform magic and host the occasional special here and there, but never enjoyed the success that he had with Wonderama. He managed to put out a video called Blockbuster Magic in the 80's that was mildly successful. It's still available in some magic shops.
McAllister died of lung cancer on July 21, 1998. Sadly, his passing wasn't considered big news.

Sometimes you don't realize how special something is until you lose it...and then you recognize it as a lost treasure.
Bob McAllister made every Sunday morning feel special, kind of like Christmas. That show will always be a treasured part of my childhood; not only because the show was fun to watch, but it featured things that were of interest to me, like the worlds of animation, puppetry and television production.
There's not much left of Wonderama. WNEW erased much of the video tapes so there's not a whole lot available. Fortunately, somebody saved a few of the episodes. Above here's a clip of the snake cans game, which gives you a brief but dated taste of the show.
However, If you didn't live it, you'll never know how special of a show it once was.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Little About The Firehouse Five Plus Two

I recently got verbally beaten up over my last post featuring The Firehouse Five Plus Two because I didn't provide enough information about the group. So in order to right that wrong, here's the full story.
Back in the 40's, a group of Disney animators (Frank Thomas and Ward Kimball included) liked Dixieland Jazz and during lunch hours, would play some records on the studio record player of Jelly Roll Morton, Baby Dodds and Louie Armstrong. Kimball, who learned trombone in grade school, would play to the records. Other people; who also played an instrument, would come in and join Ward playing to the records. Finally one day, when a group of these guys were jazzing along to 'Royal Garden Blues', the record player broke down, and they kept on playing and according to Ward, "...to our amazement, sounded pretty good all by ourselves!" They got to be tight as a group and eventually drew crowds at lunch time. The band was first called the Huggyjeedy Eight, and later on they changed their name to The San Gabriel Valley Blue Blowers. When the local horseless carriage club asked them to play for their auto tour in San Diego, Ward found a 1915 Fire Truck, restored it, and with the group now dressed as firefighters, they changed the name of the band to The Firehouse Five Plus Two.
The FH5+2 ended up playing a good amount of local gigs around Los Angeles, while maintaining their day jobs at Walt Disney Studios, and were discovered by Les Koenig, who was a writer at Paramount Studios and had dabbled in producing Jazz records. Koenig liked their sound and offered to produce some records for them for Good Time Jazz. From 1949 to 1971, the band recorded 12 full albums of material which was distributed around the world, most of which have been available on CD and can be purchased here...The Firehouse Five Plus Two Story
The FH5 played many gigs in the 50's and 60's and appeared in movies, radio and on television!
The fact that this was all done on their spare time is even more impressive. Ward once told me that Walt Disney felt a certain amount of pride that his group of animators were equally talented as a famous music group! Between 1955 and 1971, the group could be found playing around Disneyland, but most often at Plaza Gardens (to the left of the Disneyland Castle, off Main Street) or at The Golden Horseshoe in Frontierland. The group even released an album entitled, The Firehouse Five Plus Two at Disneyland, from one of their Golden Horseshoe performances.
In the clip above, Directing Animator, Ward Kimball (Jiminy Cricket, Jaq, Gus, Tweedle Dee and Dum, The Mad Hatter) is on Trombone, Harper Goff (the designer of the Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea and The Jungle Cruise attraction from Disneyland) is on Banjo and Directing Animator, Frank Thomas (Pinocchio, Queen of Hearts, Tramp, Baloo) is playing the piano. Interesting to note; if Thomas looks a little like Roger playing the piano  from 101 Dalmatians, that's no coincidence. Milt Kahl who animated most of those scenes caricatured Thomas as Roger in the film!  Other Disney studio personnel is George Probert is on clarinet, Danny Alguire on Cornet and Ed Penner on Tuba. Jim MacDonald, the studios sound effects man and voice artist responsible for Jaq, Gus, Evinrude and in later years Walt Disney's stand in for Mickey Mouse, plays the skins.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Some Disney Animators; The Firehouse Five Plus Two - Firehouse Stomp

Here's some real Disney animators led by Ward Kimball, playing some hot dixieland jazz. Back in the 50's and 60's they were very much in demand, so much they could have left their day jobs. Instead, they used it to blow off steam from Disneys. I know it seems romantic to think that things were more fun and simpler back then...maybe they weren't...but it sure seems like they were.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rage Dog Drawing

Well, I don't remember drawing this one but I do know that it was done with a Polychromos Blue pencil.
This is a drawing that I did while I was good and angry about something and vented my rage in a drawing. I happened to like it and it went into a drawer for a couple of years.
Looking at this drawing today, I would probably approach this pose a little bit differently...like changing the angle of the head and possibly having the arms clench in a downward direction. But this is the way my emotion took it and for some reason it works for me. As an animation artist, I use emotion to fuel my quick sketches because I believe you get something absolutely pure on the paper. Sometimes I'm surprised by the result because you're not thinking about technique or second guessing yourself on the pose. You're focused strictly on getting that emotion down in a sketch and you're letting your talent shine through. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

The trouble with pitching shows...

Here's another character of a rat recording details from a crazy crime scene. It was from a project I was actively developing about six years ago that borrowed heavily from shows about detectives from the 50's and 60's. The pencil media is Polychromos Blue.
Now don't get me wrong, there's some great execs who take pitches all day long that get the ideas you're trying to sell...but unfortunately, there are a good number who have a hard time comprehending a good idea...or any idea.
It dawned on me after some rather unsuccessful pitches that a show like this could never fly today. It had a couple of strikes against it from the get go which I'll share with you here.
Strike One - It references a different time period. Because this show evokes old imagery from the 50's and 60's, Executives feel the show would never connect with todays' viewers.
Strike Two - The main character is an adult rat wearing clothes.
This would never fly with some executives because there would be too many confusing questions about the humanoid rat. I.E., Why is a rat wearing clothes? Rats can write? Is the rat really a human that looks like a rat? Why is the rat a detective? Can the rat talk? etc. etc. The questions would be too numerous to answer in a single sitting.
Besides, the rat is an adult and could never relate to children.
Strike Three - The rat character doesn't sing or have a band.  The kiss of death for a show like this. You see no band, no show.
Strike Four - The cartoon is a bit clever.  If the show has an ounce of wit or parody, the kiddies will never get it.
Strike Five - The cartoon has slapstick humor. You can't have characters hitting each other over the heads because kids watching will get the wrong idea and repeat it on their friends. Can you imagine the violence that could erupt nationwide?
Strike Six - The drawings are too slick and professional looking. If the drawing is drafted well, overseas animation studios will never be able to copy it. Better to stick to childlike drawings that are simpler to draw and kids can relate to better.
In other words, strive for the lower possible denominator. It's no wonder why kids don't watch cartoons anymore!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bear and another bear drawing....

I decided to go through some animation related stuff today and came up with some drawings that I did for a video project that was being planned about ten years ago. All that I had left were some of these clean ups so I decided to post them here rather than let them collect dust in the old archive.

Media on these two were simple sanford light blue for the roughs, then rubbed down with a gum eraser and cleaned up with a standard number two pencil; like the ones they used to use in schools. The Sanford colerase pencils can be purchased at any Michaels art and craft store.
I used to use blackwings until they stopped making them...now I hear they're back, but I'm so used to using regular number 2 pencils to clean up my work, I hardly step into an art store anymore....unless I absolutely have to....

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I don't know who put this together but this is a loving tribute to behind the scenes at Hanna Barbera Studios. Some of it are drawings of the people and offices, which quickly goes to staged footage on how a show is thought up like Magilla Gorilla. However, a good amount of this footage looks like HB home movies; putting faces to the names we've seen all these years on the credits of the studio cartoons. Some of this footage is outside the HB plant on Cahuenga Blvd in Hollywood, which was still in operation in the mid 90's. I worked a couple of times for Hanna Barbera in the late 80's and early 90's and Bill and Joe didn't look a whole lot different than they do here.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Making A Hanna Barbera Cartoon!

From the early 60s', Joe Barbera and William Hanna explain the process of animation from the Hanna Barbera perspective. I've never ever seen this before so this is pretty cool. I think HB's early product is terrific because there's still a whole lot of care in the preparation of their animated shorts. The drawings are well drafted, the timing works, colors look neat and the voices are great. Unfortunately, somewhere after the sale of their studio to Taft Broadcasting around 1966, the studio fell over a cliff!
Don't get me wrong...there was still good things coming out from Hanna Barbera, just not so much. Anyhow, this stuff still fascinates me! HB's early animated cartoons like Ruff and Reddy were made for a budget of just under $ 4000 for a 5 minute animated cartoon. By the time they got to the Flintstones, the quality was upped and the budget became $35,000 for a half hour television show. I know it sounds like chicken feed today but the Rocky and Bullwinkle show had a budget that was paltry in comparision, roughly 1/4 the Budget of a Flintstones half hour!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Son Of Discarded Portfolio Drawings Part Eighty Seven

Here's another discarded portfolio drawing that I had laying around. It didn't last long in the portfolio because of multiple reasons, the main one being that it was only there to serve the purpose of having more humans in it. My portfolio got a little too top heavy with cutesy animal characters and I was looking to balance it. This drawing got the boot a year after initially adding it. It's not that I thought there was anything wrong with it; just that I had things that I thought presented me a little better. I used to be very careful about letting people see work that I thought was below par or just not up there with my best. I don't worry about that anymore because even with drawings that you like very much, there's always going to be someone thinking that your work is not inventive, thoughtful, sincere, stimulating, subtle, organic, animated, etc (you get the idea).
Once you reach a certain degree of experience, even the drawings that are not so great by your standards, may exhibit a quality that you may gloss over all together. Sometimes those quick simple little sketches exhibit a whole lot about your abilities as an artist.
A quick story....Years after I went to school for animation and fine art, I took a life drawing class with a famous artist in NYC. In sketching out my first 20 minute pose, I was a little embarrassed by the drawing and wasn't in the mood to have my instructor critique the work. But as he walked behind me, he took a quick look at my drawing and exclaimed the following....
"Ahhh, a professional!" It was quite a good feeling to hear that, although it didn't make me feel any different about the sketch.. It did give me a certain confidence to know that even my half baked attempts at a good drawing are going to be tempered with an ounce of professionalism.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Roger Ramjet - Monkey

Few television cartoons got as much laughs out of a couple of drawings the way Fred Cribbens' Roger Ramjet did. If you study animation, you'll find that there's not a whole lot of poses in each of these cartoons. In fact, drawings and or cels are reused constantly! The illusion of motion in action scenes are pretty much faked with lots of camera moves.
But the real brilliance of Ramjet lies in five elements; funny scripts; funny voice work; funny storyboards; solid timing and funny drawings! Lots of funny for the money! And believe me, this show did not cost a whole lot of money to make at the time. Full animation probably would not have made it any funnier! It just goes to show that a funny idea solidly executed by a crew that knows what they're doing, can turn out a great product! Take a look!

Monday, September 05, 2011

Discarded Portfolio Drawings: ...With the fishes...

Just so that you know, I'm doing my best to publish one post everyday (at worst one post every two days). I apologize for abandoning the blog for so long over the last couple of years, but I had a whole lot of personal issues that forced me to put it on the back burner. I'm committed to keeping the blog fresh, interesting and up to date, so please stay tooned. If there is anything you'd like to see more of, let me know.
Todays' post is of some fish, which I pulled from my portfolio about five years ago. However, for some reason I didn't discard them (and I throw out quite a few older sketches!) probably because I liked something about the design. Actually I still do! Years back I was a dedicated Bluth fan, I studied some of the animation of the fish from 'Xanadu' and 'Banjo The Woodpile Cat' and those influences made their way into these drawings.
Drawn with an Ebony pencil on regular bond paper, these sketches have no construction lines. These sketches were drawn clean, locking down the shapes and then adding the eyes, fins, mouths, etc.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

The Spooktacular New Adventures Of Casper

When I moved back to NY in early 1995, I had secured freelance work on a show with a new production outfit in Manhattan. It all sounded good in the beginning. Everyone was impressed with my work and credentials and couldn't wait for me to get going on the first storyboards. Then everything came crashing down. Nothing went right. Changes were ordered on almost every single panel; from just about everyone in the studio including assistants. I have no problem with revisions, but some of the changes were absolutely moronic. After a valiant attempt to please everyone, there was a second round of revisions on top of the revisions!
That storyboard which should have taken 3-4 weeks to complete was now taking 8+weeks to complete.
I stopped work on the show and told the production manager I was done. Although I was happy to be off that show, the sudden realization hit me; I had no work and virtually no prospects of future work. I called around to a bunch of studios and there was no work to be had. It was a scary moment. I began to doubt my decision to move back to NY, but miraculously, I soon found myself being offered series work from a good number of studios. First came a series offer from Hanna/Barbera, then another from Universal Cartoon studios and then there were other various freelance jobs. I grabbed all of them; I didn't turn anything down! The longest lasting of these jobs was offered by Alfred Gimeno who was Producer and Director of the new Casper show at Universal. I ended up storyboarding a whole bunch of episodes from 1995 through 1999. When I was young, one of my favorite cartoons was Casper The Friendly Ghost, so I thought it was a real kick to work on the new show!
To say that working on Casper was a breeze would be an understatement. It was a fun show to work on, with lots of opportunities to do a whole lot of funny business. The ghostly trio, with their obnoxious personalities were my favorites; lots of great character business! The problems that I had with the previous studio were practically non-existent on this show. All I remember from the experience was laughing a whole lot at some of the drawings I created. Of course there were changes; a few here and there, but basically what I boarded remained pretty much the same in the finished version on the small screen. The first few boards were really rough in nature and I was asked to draw cleaner. I can rattle off drawings pretty quickly and by slowing down a little bit I can actually get a good amount of info into the drawing. The boards presented here are actually still considered rough storyboards, drawn in Ebony Pencil that look clean. What I did was rough out each panel with a quick gesture of the action, then rubbed that down with a gum eraser and drew over it with a sharpened ebony pencil. That's probably why you don't see a whole lot of construction lines in the board pages posted here from 'Pen and Tell Her' (click on the images then click again to enlarge the pages). This enabled me to save time in clean ups later. One board that I did in this way went through without a single change! Alfred would later leave the show and a new director, Marija Maletic Dail took over. Pretty much it was business as usual although Marija had a few suggestions here and there with her take on the boarding.
Looking back at these drawings, it's definitely not my best work (hard to believe it's been 15 years since I drew them) but it's still better than the drawings done for the finished cartoon!There were lots of shortcuts taken (as the boards had to be done fairly fast) and some of the drawing seems a bit off. However, I think it captured the attitudes pretty well and it's cool to look at. We had a whole bunch of people working on this show from the Animaniacs and Tiny Toons crew including writers, voice people and animation artists. Overall, it was a pretty neat experience but looking at the end product left me a little non plussed. The cartoony expressions and attitudes were basically discarded by the overseas animation studio (obviously not knowing what to do with them!).
As I recall, there was a whole lot of frustration with the production being on a such tight budget.
The finished animation was extremely uneven at times, sometimes downright horrible, but that's what you get sometimes with overseas animation houses!

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Random Portfolio Drawings

Here's a drawing I did for some project years back. It was in my portfolio for a while and then I decided to remove it for some reason, probably because it wasn't representing any specific bird. I change out drawings in my portfolio quite often to keep it fresh. I still liked the drawing however and kept it in a pile since then.

Obviously it's some rag tag bird, likely something in the seagull family. However, once again it's cobbled together from my imagination without a heap of reference which sometimes can be a good thing! Most artists will look at their work years later and retire or destroy a good deal of their drawings as being 'not up to current standard'.

This one has survived multiple trash sessions. It has some fun shapes in it and that's why I like it. The media was either an ebony or prismacolor black pencil on animation bond paper.

Does anyone remember this incidental character from any show that they can remember?

Friday, September 02, 2011

The Essential Laurel and Hardy

Coming out soon! The Essential Laurel and Hardy DVD box set (Retail $99.99)!
I've been waiting years for this and never thought that this would ever be released. This set includes most if not all of their Hal Roach pictures, even foreign release versions that contain additional unseen footage.
The fact that this has made it to release is a reason to celebrate. For many years you could only get a handful of their films on video or dvd.
Now, you can purchase this ten disc set on pre-order at a heavily discounted price here! The Essential Laurel & Hardy
I'm a huge Laurel and Hardy fan and have been for as long as I can remember. My father and I were huge fans and often would sit for hours enjoying the insanity of their humor.
Certainly, Laurel and Hardy have influenced thousands of actors, comedians, animators, and even directors over the years. Famed Warner Bros. Cartoon Director Chuck Jones often used Oliver Hardy's expressions for Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny. Live action director Blake Edwards borrowed gags from their films to use in his Pink Panther Live Action pictures; even lifting a wild explosion gag from a L&H comedy!
In Edwards' 1965 comedy The Great Race Blake pays tribute; the film is lovingly dedicated to 'Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy.'
Sadly, the youth of the world today only know of Laurel and Hardy through 'The March Of The Wooden Soldiers.' Although it's a great film featuring the boys, it is just the tip of the iceberg of their work.
Hopefully, this box set will get people talking about the laughter and joy of Laurel and Hardy again!
Oh by the way, the clip above is from one of their best films, Way Out West! Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hurricane Blues

Hi Everyone!

I started posting again to the blog and then the darnest thing happened.....Hurricane Irene!
And I was in the storms direct path on Long Island, New York! Although it was downgraded to a tropical storm, it took down plenty of trees and utility poles.
Although I was unaffected by the actual storm, the night before the storm blew in, a transformer near me went KABOOM and all the power went out in my area....FOR FOUR DAYS!
We just got our power back Wednesday night. YIKES!
I'll have some new drawings up for your view tomorrow night!
Thanks for your patience and tell your friends...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Ruff sketch...

Here's a little quick sketch that I did of a pontificating fellow.

It was done in with an ebony pencil with plain copy paper.

Never underestimate the power of copy paper for pencil drawings...it's a great drawing surface for a couple of dollars per ream!

If you've noticed, I haven't posted a whole lot of cleaned up drawings in the past. The reason is simple; there's a power to the ruff sketch that comes right out of the imagination onto a clean sheet of paper. There's going to be a bunch of imperfections, but the power of the lines and the raw attitude of the pose makes it much more interesting to me than a labored over clean up. Besides, I can rough out a pose like this in a minute or two whereas a clean up will take me much much longer to lock down.

Bottomline, I'm able to post quick sketches much more frequently.

To this day, I learn a whole lot from rough drawings. It's almost like you can see how the artist approached the sketch. There's something about a really great ruff sketch that gets me totally enthused. The vitality of the drawing really takes over and makes the thing alive!

Now don't get me wrong...a really well done finished drawing can also be terrific...with the emphasis on 'can be'. But the truth is, some clean ups are merely adequate, and lose all the flavor of the original rough drawing because the rough is traced.

A direct tracing with a clean sheet of paper over the original almost always loses something in the process. Unless you have a master artist doing the clean ups!

When a great clean up artist is at work, he or she enhances the original rough by redrawing it, trying to plus the original.

I've worked with a few clean up artists over the years and some of them should have been animating because they were just that good. But they preferred working in the trenches because they did their jobs well and didn't have to worry about producing 7 feet of quality animation in a week. Thank god that we had these people content in their jobs because they made the character animators look sensational!

Anyway, getting back to the rough drawing above, a friend commented to me that this drawing wasn't all that rough. His point was that most of the detail was there and locked down in single lines.

Well, I've done ruffs that resemble lollipops with scribbles for legs and I've done drawings that have many of the elements close to locked down. But even with a drawing that appears to be close to done, there's still things that I would like to add or change before I finalize it.

OH by the way, I did this drawing today...not in 01 as I mistakenly scribbled on the bottom.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Brian Mitchell Show will be back after these important messages.....

Please stay tooned...it's been awhile! I'll be back to Blogging shortly, somewhere before September 1st. Thanks for waiting!